YOU ARE AT:5GVenturing into 5G or maximizing LTE today? That is the question (Reader...

Venturing into 5G or maximizing LTE today? That is the question (Reader Forum)

As we enter a new year, we find ourselves on the verge of a connectivity paradigm shift with 5G trials and networks seemingly lighting up every day. Indeed, 5G will be one of the most revolutionary technologies of the new decade, and there is no doubt that the high speeds, ultra-low latency and the massive amount of IoT devices that 5G will connect will change the way organizations think about IoT.

As we move into the 5G era, we are immersed in discussion around its tremendous potential. The greater interconnectivity and control of devices that 5G enables will provide us with amazing use cases such as immersive AR/VR, Fixed Wireless Access and Smart Factories ready to operate in the age of Industry 4.0. So, it comes as no surprise that expectations of adoption are on the rise with a forecast of 1.9 billion 5G subscriptions by the end of 2024, according to the Ericsson Mobility Report

Re-imagining the next generation of network technology

The 5G trend continues to sweep us off our feet with promises of improved connectivity, reliability and security. It has started its early path to maturity and organizations are preparing their current deployments to be able to jump into the 5G wagon without skipping a beat. As with any new technology, however there are a number of intermediary steps on the road to adoption. We anticipate three phases of 5G adoption in the coming years: 

  1. Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and mobile handsets are the first adopters of 5G technology. The former for improved service while the latter because of its ‘coolness’ end user factor and applications like AR/VR, high-def video, or cloud gaming. The faster cycle of handsets and the fact that carriers are pushing 5G in their competitive race for subscribers will allow for early use cases and a first test run with consumers.
  2. The second phase will be applications that require more bandwidth, like Smart Cities looking to improve public safety with higher-definition security cameras, more reliable city infrastructure systems and emergency services communications. 
  3. The third phase will bring 5G into Smart Factories and autonomous vehicles. Industry 4.0 will change how machines and humans will interact and 5G’s ultra-reliability and low-latency will enable the communication needed for these use cases of humans collaborating with robots in an industrial setting, as well as applications like self-driving vehicles delivering parts within a manufacturing environment and beyond.

We are still early in the first phase, but organizations are realizing the future potential and are paying attention to how this trend will shape their businesses. As they take the initial steps to prepare for the new generation of cellular technology, however, they mustn’t become myopically focused on it. 

Adapting strategies for the 5G dawn should start by thinking on future adoption while we determine both present and future business needs, make the best use of current technologies and find out which use cases will truly benefit from 5G and how we’ll take advantage of it maintaining cost efficiencies.

5G is not 4G’s replacement. It is its Long-Term Evolution

While organizations plan for 5G adoption, they also must leverage the investment they have already made in cellular. LTE, LTE-Advanced, LTE-M, NB-IoT and beyond won’t be obsolete anytime soon; in fact, as 5G evolves so will they. 

While 5G infrastructure continues to be developed, LTE growth remains strong nearing the 5 billion subscriptions worldwide. In the near future, the cellular technologies of today will continue to co-exist in parallel with 5G especially as it is initially only deployed in Non-Standalone (NSA) mode, meaning that every 5G connection starts with an LTE connection and then leverages 5G for additional bandwidth if available. Additionally, Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) will put 4G and 5G service concurrently on the same band to provide investment protection and longevity for LTE devices.

We are at a point in time where enterprises need to be prepared for 5G disruption without overlooking the capabilities of today’s cellular networks to provide the level of service required by the vast majority of IoT applications. For example, today LTE-M and NB-IoT are still the perfect fit for trackers, smart meters, wearables, and other low-cost, low-bandwidth and often battery-powered applications. That said, with 5G on the horizon, organizations must have an attack plan to be ready for their 5G adoption and maximize their resources.

Leaders in every organization will have to answer questions about where their IoT applications stand today and where they want them to be in the next few years. They need to know their needs in terms of bandwidth, data plan, latency and availability, as well as the demands of the physical environment and power consumption. With this information they will be able to develop an adoption roadmap, shifting towards 5G where it makes sense, continuing with other connectivity where it does not, and partnering with vendors that will advocate for the most efficient and effective connectivity protocol for their specific applications. 

Potential and reality together

There is an enormous amount of infrastructure that must be installed before 5G is fully available, and as organizations look into future deployments and investments, they shouldn’t take for granted the technologies they have in place now. They should be leveraging and preparing those technologies to help smooth the path for the next generation of networks. 

As we enter 2020, we have to step on the brakes and critically evaluate what is working, how it can be improved by new technologies, what insights can be gained today from already connected machines, factories, cities and people, and how those investments can be enhanced with disrupting technologies like 5G in order to improve business outcomes.

Harald Remmert is an accomplished technology leader in the IoT ecosystem with over 20 years of experience in product strategy, design, development, testing and engineering leadership with a proven track-record of introducing successful products to the market. Harald has deep technical knowledge in mixed hardware and software product development, and he’s always on the lookout for new technologies and tools to innovate and solve business problems more efficiently. As a Director of Engineering Harald is currently responsible for Research & Development of cellular and networking products.

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